In the previous post, here, St. Thomas Aquinas gives a resounding “NO” to the question: “Should all vices be crimes?” Catholics agree that drunkenness,
If God permits evil, can we also?
St. Thomas notes that sometimes God himself permits earthly evils which he could easily suppress:
“Human government is derived from the Divine
Elsewhere, St. Thomas repeats this truth that suppressing vices can lead to greater evils:
“[Human law] does not lay upon the multitude of imperfect men the burdens of those who are already virtuous . . . Otherwise, these imperfect ones, being unable to bear such precepts, would break out into yet greater evils.”
St. Augustine also understood the need to permit non-violent vices, because governmental suppression would only result in more evils. He noted that even though prostitution was sordid and indecent, the forcible removal of prostitutes from society would be worse than permitting them. In his letter to Macedonius (413–14 A.D.), Augustine uses the example of Jesus and the woman taken in adultery (whom Jesus saved from stoning). He speaks to those zealous—but misguided—Christians who would like to see government punish every sin. He urges them to adopt Jesus’ merciful example saying, “Impious Jews yielded to his pronouncement; may pious Christians do so too.”
He also rejects the idea that human laws make bad men good:
“[The bad] are not to be described as good just because they do not sin, out of fear of such penalties. One is good not through fear of punishment, but through the love of justice. Punishment by the government is useful so that “the innocent can live in security among the unscrupulous.”
Not only does St. Augustine reject the notion that criminal punishment removes an interior disposition to evil,
Our own society has
Some examples of prohibition-caused evils are shocking, such as vicious gang warfare and the mass murder of law enforcement officers in Mexico. In American cities, we read about shootings at convenience stores carried out by drug dealers engaged in turf-wars. Many burglaries and robberies are committed by drug users needing money to buy expensive black-market drugs. Users die from overdoses and from impure drugs.
Methamphetamine cookers burn down their homes in meth lab explosions. Children are harmed by the poisonous chemicals needed to make the drugs. Similar evils engulfed the country throughout the period of alcohol prohibition in the twenties.
These days we never read about a Budweiser truck driver getting into a shootout with a Miller Lite salesman in the liquor aisle. Beer and wine are favored over distilled spirits, and even hard drinkers get their alcohol free of poisonous additives. Exploding moonshine stills are not much of a problem these days. Nor does the price of alcohol itself cause crime, for even a homeless wino can manage a three-buck drunk without having to burglarize homes.
Unfortunately, state power and revenue